For the most part, everyone has the option of retiring early. Whether you define "early" as 63, 40, or even 35, the point is to make more time for yourself and your loved ones while you can.
Time is one of the most valuable resources we have at your disposal. However, many of us still end up working 40 hours per week for 40 or even 50 years for various reasons not excluding passion and the plain need to keep earning a living.
It’s not all doom and gloom though because if people are willing to give us money for our time, then this means we can spend money to buy your time back…a.k.a retirement.
Think about it, having the financial freedom to choose what you do with your time is one of the most valuable gifts you can give to yourself, your loved ones, and the causes you care about.
In 2009, the government revised the mandatory retirement age upwards to 60 from 55 in what was said to be a way of keeping skilled people longer in service.
And often, salaried or permanent employees use this as the ideal retirement age with anything earlier than that being considered early retirement.
The income Tax Rules 1994 define early retirement in Kenya as 50 years. If you choose to retire early on medical grounds or to emigrate to another country, you are eligible to receive your retirement (pension) benefits just like someone else who attained the pensionable age of 60.
Taking early retirement is beneficial, at least for your mental health, say researchers. A 2010 study published by the British Medical Journal involving over 14,000 employees in France (mandatory retirement age 67) showed that giving up work at 55 came as a great relief to most, cutting stress and fatigue.
Similar studies have been carried out across Africa but there is still none that has tied early retirement to improved physical health.
However, all surveys agree on one thing, properly planned early retirement has a significant effect on general well-being and happiness.
Let’s be honest, we would all jump on the chance of hanging our ‘boots’ and riding off into the sunset knowing all our finances are sorted for decades to come. Yes, one can still love their job and still yearn for more time for themselves and their loved ones in the form of early retirement.
Contribute towards your workplace retirement plan - Check with your HR department to find out if your company matches any contributions and whether you can set up automatic increases to your contribution amount.
Pay off and avoid unnecessary debt - This may sound obvious but it’s still very important to note that any avoidable debt taken up will eventually chip away from your retirement money.
Carry out a personal audit - It’s important to list down what’s important to you. For example, do you want to live it up now or upon retirement. It could be both and this is where compromise kicks in. If early retirement is one of your top priorities but you enjoy travelling, compromise and instead of going on a vacation every year, go every 2 years.
Invest early - This is another obvious ‘trick’ but it cannot be emphasised enough. Investing early and often guarantees a steady income supply if done well. From government bonds, to lucrative side hustles, millions of Kenyans have realised the benefits that come with multiple income streams.
If offered, take advantage of employee benefits such as employee stock plans - once again, Check with your HR department to see if there's an option available to you.
Engaging some or all of the practices above is a good way to work towards early retirement but one rule stands above all in this day and age, work towards having multiple streams of income. This cannot be stressed enough for anyone looking towards early retirement.
This could include investing in income-generating assets such as a rental property or starting a small business, or, more traditionally, taking on a part-time job or side-hustle. Alternative income streams help to cover your living expenses, allowing you to save more for your long-term goal.
Despite the appeal of freedom, early retirement is not all puppies and rainbows as many have come to find out the hard way.
Researchers say that, no matter how much of a boost we get in freedom or money, we eventually revert back to our normal baseline of happiness.
In a 2017 CompHealth survey, 68% of the 400 late-career physicians polled expressed dissatisfaction with retirement. Some of the most common concerns were a loss of social interactions at work, a lack of purpose, boredom, and depression.
Then there’s the question we all get when we meet new people ‘what do you do for a living?’ This explains why a good chunk of early retirees often end up in some form of identity crisis.
Many people believe that if they achieve financial independence or leave a job they despise, they will be permanently happier. However, as previously stated, research has shown that any significant increase in happiness is only temporary.
Then there’s the possibility of boredom. Think of early retirement like bingeing on your favourite TV show and wrapping up all 5 seasons in 3 nights…you will end up with a ‘what next’ kind of feeling.
This is why planning for retirement is extremely important, right down to your day to day activities.
The truth is that if you're unhappy before your early retirement, you're likely to be unhappy after you retire. It is preferable to first identify and address the root causes of your problems. Then, you must have a clear vision of what you intend to do when you retire.
Many people associate retirement with moving to paradise, spending more time with family, or being able to do something they truly enjoy, such as volunteer work or travel.
Whatever it is to you, the more you plan now, the better position you will be in the future to prepare for retirement and, if you're lucky, to realise your dream of early retirement.
So, if you were to retire at 40, what would you be doing with the rest of your life?